As seen in the new IMAX film “Hubble 3-D,” the seven astronauts on the STS-125 Mission had some serious business to take care of. Traveling at 17,500 mph, they first had to grab and secure the telescope, then make various adjustments to specialized cameras and spectrographs, as well as replace batteries and insulation, and install new gyroscopes. “Hubble 3-D” opens at the New England Aquarium Simons IMAX Theatre today. It’s scheduled to open at the Jordan’s Furniture Verizon IMAX Theater in Natick on April 23.


 

Astronauts are a funny bunch. Really. Take, for instance, a group of them that last year flew to the Hubble Space Telescope – which has been in orbit since 1990 – on a servicing mission to make repairs and upgrades.


As seen in the new IMAX film “Hubble 3-D,” the seven astronauts on the STS-125 Mission had some serious business to take care of. Traveling at 17,500 mph, they first had to grab and secure the telescope, then make various adjustments to specialized cameras and spectrographs, as well as replace batteries and insulation, and install new gyroscopes. This involved space walks, or extra-vehicular activities, and, as shown in the film, dealing with plenty of unexpected hassles, all of which could easily become life-threatening.


Played out in 3-D on huge IMAX screens, the events in the film are eye-popping and breathtaking. Director Toni Myers even uses images caught by the Hubble to send us across the galaxies to witness places we can’t ever go.


It’s fantastic viewing, but it’s also a real people movie. The astronauts on board might be braver and smarter than most of us, but they make us feel as if we’re right up there with them – weightless and in a cramped space.


Back down on Earth, they’re just regular folks. At a recent press event in Washington, D.C., a few members of the STS-125 crew shared their thoughts about the mission. Some of them were serious; others were surprisingly funny.


“It’s been 10 months since we flew,” said Commander Scott Altman. “But watching the movie, I felt like I experienced the flight again. It was special to sit there watching it with my wife right next to me and feel like we were going together, having that shared experience.”


This was Altman’s fourth space flight, and one thing that’s always been memorable to him is those last 10 seconds of the countdown.


“At that point, you’ve been sitting in the vehicle for up to three hours,” he said. “You’re in a very familiar environment from being in simulators. So as the count is going on, you tell yourself, ‘Well, we’re in another sim. We’re just doing this again.’ But at t-minus 10, the countdown is picking up a bit. At t-minus 6, the shuttle main engines light up and the vehicle shakes, and you think, ‘Hmm, this is a little different than the sim.’ But then at zero – when you get to the solid rocket boosters ignition – BOOM! Everything is shakin’ and rockin’ and rollin.’ And you go, ‘Wow! We are NOT in a sim.’ ”


Mission Specialist John Grunsfeld made the point that he and his mission mates are only human.


“We eat in space, so we’ve gotta do other things in space,” he said. “And we have a potty onboard. I’d always wanted to try to capture that in some way for the film, so I could show my kids and family what the space potty is like. So I recruited Ray-J (pilot Gregory Johnson) to describe the operation of the potty. I asked him to sit down on it and close the door. Then I grabbed the camera, opened the door and interviewed him.”


Grunsfeld laughed and added, “I was very thankful and I think it worked out well in the movie.”


Mission Specialist Michael Massimino recalled taking his two kids to see “Avatar” a couple of weeks ago, unaware that a preview trailer for “Hubble3-D” would be on before the feature.


“My kids hadn’t seen the (Hubble) movie yet,” he said. “They’re both teenagers, and are very hard to impress. A space walk? The Hubble? They don’t care. They want to hang out with their friends. So we were sitting there waiting for ‘Avatar,’ and the trailer came on, and we all walked out onscreen, and my kids just started screaming, going nuts. Then it said narrated by Leonardo DiCaprio, and my daughter tuned to me and said, ‘Does that mean that he’s gonna say our name?’ So seeing myself on the big screen was great for me because it finally got my kids excited about what I do.”


“Hubble 3-D” opens at the New England Aquarium Simons IMAX Theatre today. It’s scheduled to open at the Jordan’s Furniture Verizon IMAX Theater in Natick on April 23.


The Patriot Ledger